GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 8 Sept) – The government needs to establish stronger fisheries management measures and cooperate with other Pacific nations to ensure one sector of the tuna industry will not be sacrificed in favor of another.
Greenpeace and leaders of the handline fishing sector issued the appeal here as the 15th National Tuna Congress concluded on Saturday. The two-day congress was held at the third floor of SM Mall of General Santos, while the appeal was made at a press briefing at a restaurant in the ground floor.
“The government should ensure sustainability in our seas so that tuna fisheries can continue, securing the livelihood of millions of fisherfolk. Instead of continuously trying to seek exceptions to conservation measures, the Philippines should instead work more closely with the rest of the Pacific region and help put in place strong science-based management measures that can help stop overfishing,” said Mark Dia, Greenpeace Southeast Asia ocean campaigner.
The western and central Pacific Ocean is home to the world’s largest tuna fishery valued at $7 billion annually. Tuna species commonly found in this fishing ground include skipjack, yellowfin, albacore and bigeye
Citing data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ National Stock Assessment Program, he noted that majority of the tuna caught in the Philippine waters from 2002 to 2010 are juvenile stocks by purse seine fishing fleet.
“Our livelihoods are already threatened. The hook and line tuna industry is being sacrificed for canned tuna,” said Raul Gonzales, spokesperson of the Alliance of Tuna Handliners, echoing Greenpeace’s concern on current unsustainable fishing practices that jeopardize the future of the tuna industry.
Handline tuna fishing employs the traditional hook and line to catch mature tuna that are sold fresh in foreign and domestic markets. On the other hand, purse seine fishing used nets to catch tuna used by canneries.
This city, dubbed as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canneries.
Gonzales asked the government to act now to ensure that juvenile tuna catches in the purse seine fisheries are reduced.
“Urgent reduction in excess purse seine fishing capacity must also be implemented,” he added.
Dia said the “unsustainable purse seine sector, with its use of fish aggregating devices (FAD), is driving down the higher value and more sustainable handline fisheries.”
He urged the Philippine government to do its share in conservation at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in December and not negotiate for “short-sighted” exemptions on reducing FAD use.
Sari Tolvanen, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace International, said that without strong action to stop overfishing and overcapacity in the fleet, fishing companies as well as coastal communities will suffer huge losses as the stocks decline and the fleet will be forced to move elsewhere.
“A precautionary approach must be taken now, before it is too late. The problem is that efforts at fisheries management have fallen short of what is required,” she said.